Learning valuable skills
Focus on career-based education
February is CTE Month
A common question often asked of young people is “what do they want to do when they grow up?”
The possibilities are endless, and often it is difficult to decide at a young age.
There are some, however, who have an inclination of what they would like to accomplish. One way they are pursuing their goal is by enrolling at the Southern Westchester BOCES Center for Career Services.
The center offers more than 20 one and two-year career-related programs in a broad range of fields. Students attend their regular high school for their core classes and spend two-and-a-half hours, either in a morning or an afternoon session, focused on a specialty field.
Among the course offerings are 3D-Art, Animal Science, Architecture and Interior Design, AutoCAD, Automotive Technology, Collision Technology, Commercial Art, Construction/Electrical, Construction/Plumbing, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Emergency Medical Services, Fashion Design and Merchandising, Nurse Assistant, Pre-Engineering, Security, Law and Policing, Sound Production and TV/Video Production.
Throughout their classes students learn valuable, work-related skills. Those who complete the New York state CTE training are eligible to receive academic and career credits at college.
“They get something tangible,” Principal James Matera said of his students. In addition to learning a skill, he said, students are also taught how to be a good employees.
“I’m a true believer in technical education,” Mr. Matera said. “I’ve seen, with hard work, students can use their skills for college or to go on to a career.”
A technical and career-orientated education suits students who learn by doing.
“I love hands-on work,” Jowel Nelson, a senior at Eastchester High School, said.
During her sophomore year Jowel said she was going through a tough time. She had heard friends talk about BOCES, but she was unsure what it was until she spoke with her guidance counselor. When asked what were her interests, Jowel said cooking.
“I love cooking with my aunt,” she said.
Jowel is now in her second year of the Culinary Arts Program. She is a member of the National Technical Honor Society and last year competed at Skills USA in commercial baking. She will be returning to the competition this year to compete in cake decorating.
“I am so excited I get to do what I love,” she said. “I just love BOCES. It’s so great.”
Her interest to be a Career and Technical Education student was piqued after she met some of the chefs at the center during a visit to campus where she also saw other students from her school.
“I knew if I came here I would get so many opportunities,” she said.
Jowel credited the support of her teachers with her success and the sense of community at the center.
Her plan following graduation is to attend Westchester Community College for her general courses, and transfer to the Culinary Institute of America. Her goal is to become an executive chef, possibly in Atlanta.
“It turned out great,” Jowel said.
The course offerings have changed over time with certain industries being represented, while others are not renewed.
“We look at what is in the job market,” Mr. Matera said of how Career Services plan its courses.
There are more than 20 course offerings at the center with Cosmetology among the most popular along with auto mechanics, electrical and animal science.
A new industry that is currently developing rapidly is drone pilots. It is a specialty the center is beginning to incorporate into its curriculum, Mr. Matera said.
When determining which courses to offer consideration goes to what are the most in-demand skills and jobs and, secondly, what are students interested in learning.
“Industries out there are in great demand,” Dahlia Jackson, Director of the Center for Career Services, said. “Plumbing has the greatest demand right now. Electrical is another.”
“There is a great need,” Ms. Jackson said, noting one of the electrical companies her center regularly works with had to hire electricians from out of state because they could not find enough qualified candidates.
In addition to the need, Ms. Jackson said, “Students who do two years in a vocation come out with less student loan debt and make good money.”
“It’s something no one can take away from them,” she said. “With a skill there is always a job for them.”
Ms. Jackson encouraged those considering a trade to take a look at the center through a campus visit in which they can sit in on classes.
“Come test it out, see if they like it,” Ms. Jackson said. “Just research it. We live it every day.”